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The COVID-19 pandemic unveiled the fragility of food sovereignty in cities and confirmed the close connection urban dwellers have with food. Although the pandemic was not responsible for a systemic failure, it suggested how citizens would accept and indeed support a transition toward more localized food production systems. As this attitudinal shift is aligned with the sustainability literature, this work aims to explore the tools and actions needed for a policy framework transformation that recognizes the multiple benefits of food systems, while considering local needs and circumstances. This perspective paper reviews the trends in production and consumption, and systematizes several impacts emerged across European food systems in response to the first wave of pandemic emergency, with the final aim of identifying challenges and future strategies for research and innovation toward the creation of resilient and sustainable city/region food systems. The proposal does not support a return to traditional small-scale economies that might not cope with the growing global population. It instead stands to reconstruct and upscale such connections using a “think globally act locally” mind-set, engaging local communities, and making existing and future citizen-led food system initiatives more sustainable. The work outlines a set of recommended actions for policy-makers: support innovative and localized food production, training and use of information and communication technology for food production and distribution; promote cross-pollination among city/region food systems; empower schools as agents of change in food provision and education about food systems; and support the development of assessment methodologies and the application of policy tools to ensure that the different sustainability dimensions of the food chain are considered.
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PERSPECTIVE
published: 09 March 2021
doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2021.642787
Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems | www.frontiersin.org 1March 2021 | Volume 5 | Article 642787
Edited by:
Andrea Pieroni,
University of Gastronomic
Sciences, Italy
Reviewed by:
Renata Sõukand,
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy
Cornelia Butler Flora,
Iowa State University, United States
*Correspondence:
Fabio De Menna
fabio.demenna2@unibo.it
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Social Movements, Institutions and
Governance,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
Received: 16 December 2020
Accepted: 12 February 2021
Published: 09 March 2021
Citation:
Vittuari M, Bazzocchi G, Blasioli S,
Cirone F, Maggio A, Orsini F, Penca J,
Petruzzelli M, Specht K, Amghar S,
Atanasov A-M, Bastia T, Bertocchi I,
Coudard A, Crepaldi A, Curtis A,
Fox-Kämper R, Gheorghica AE,
Lelièvre A, Muñoz P, Nolde E,
Pascual-Fernández J, Pennisi G,
Pölling B, Reynaud-Desmet L,
Righini I, Rouphael Y, Saint-Ges V,
Samoggia A, Shaystej S, da Silva M,
Toboso Chavero S, Tonini P,
Trušnovec G, Vidmar BL, Villalba G
and De Menna F (2021) Envisioning
the Future of European Food
Systems: Approaches and Research
Priorities After COVID-19.
Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 5:642787.
doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2021.642787
Envisioning the Future of European
Food Systems: Approaches and
Research Priorities After COVID-19
Matteo Vittuari 1, Giovanni Bazzocchi 1, Sonia Blasioli 1, Francesco Cirone 1,
Albino Maggio 2, Francesco Orsini 1, Jerneja Penca 3, Mara Petruzzelli 1, Kathrin Specht 4,
Samir Amghar 5, Aleksandar-Mihail Atanasov6, Teresa Bastia 7, Inti Bertocchi 8,
Antoine Coudard 9, Andrea Crepaldi 10, Adam Curtis 11 , Runrid Fox-Kämper 4,
Anca Elena Gheorghica 12, Agnès Lelièvre 13 , Pere Muñoz 14, Erwin Nolde 15 ,
Josè Pascual-Fernández 16, Giuseppina Pennisi 1, Bernd Pölling 17 ,
Lèlia Reynaud-Desmet 18, Isabella Righini 19 , Youssef Rouphael 2, Vèronique Saint-Ges 20 ,
Antonella Samoggia 1, Shima Shaystej 21, Macu da Silva 22 , Susana Toboso Chavero 23,
Pietro Tonini 23, Gorazd Trušnovec 24, Benjamin L. Vidmar 25, Gara Villalba 23 and
Fabio De Menna 1
*
1Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, 2University of Naples Federico II,
Naples, Italy, 3Euro-Mediterranean University, Piran, Slovenia, 4Institut für Landes- und Stadtentwicklungsforschung
(ILS)—Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development, Dortmund, Germany, 5Gemeente Lansingerland,
Lansigerland, Netherlands, 6Hague Corporate Affairs, The Hague, Netherlands, 7Comune di Naples, Naples, Italy, 8Comune
di Bologna, Bologna, Italy, 9Metabolic Institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 10 Flytech S.r.l., Belluno, Italy, 11Nabolagshager AS,
Oslo, Norway, 12 Asociatia Mai Bine, Ia ¸si, Romania, 13 AgroParisTech—Institut des sciences et industries du vivant et de
l’environnement, Paris, France, 14 Ajuntament de Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, 15 Nolde and Partner, Berlin, Germany,
16 University of La Laguna, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Spain, 17 South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, Iserlohn,
Germany, 18 Commune de Romainville, Romainville, France, 19 Wageningen Plant Research, Wageningen University and
Research, Wageningen, Netherlands, 20 UMR SADAPT, INRAe, Université Paris-Saclay, AgroParisTech, Paris, France,
21 Tåsen Microgreens AS, Oslo, Norway, 22 Organización de Productores de Túnidos y Pesca Fresca de la Isla de
Tenerife—ISLATUNA, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, 23Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, 24 Urban
Beekeeping Society, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 25 Polar Permaculture Solutions AS, Longyearbyen, Norway
The COVID-19 pandemic unveiled the fragility of food sovereignty in cities and confirmed
the close connection urban dwellers have with food. Although the pandemic was
not responsible for a systemic failure, it suggested how citizens would accept and
indeed support a transition toward more localized food production systems. As this
attitudinal shift is aligned with the sustainability literature, this work aims to explore the
tools and actions needed for a policy framework transformation that recognizes the
multiple benefits of food systems, while considering local needs and circumstances. This
perspective paper reviews the trends in production and consumption, and systematizes
several impacts emerged across European food systems in response to the first
wave of pandemic emergency, with the final aim of identifying challenges and future
strategies for research and innovation toward the creation of resilient and sustainable
city/region food systems. The proposal does not support a return to traditional small-
scale economies that might not cope with the growing global population. It instead
stands to reconstruct and upscale such connections using a “think globally act locally”
mind-set, engaging local communities, and making existing and future citizen-led food
system initiatives more sustainable. The work outlines a set of recommended actions
for policy-makers: support innovative and localized food production, training and use of
Vittuari et al. Envisioning Future European Food Systems
information and communication technology for food production and distribution; promote
cross-pollination among city/region food systems; empower schools as agents of change
in food provision and education about food systems; and support the development of
assessment methodologies and the application of policy tools to ensure that the different
sustainability dimensions of the food chain are considered.
Keywords: city/region food system, SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, sustainable food systems, food initiatives, food
security
INTRODUCING CITY/REGION FOOD
SYSTEMS: THE FOODE VISION
A diffuse concern about food systems’ resilience has grown
throughout Europe in face of the current COVID-19 crisis
(Bakalis et al., 2020). Although scarcity of food was not a real
threat, the crisis increased awareness on the potential exposure
of food systems to new shocks and crises, especially in terms
of food access (Béné, 2020), consumer behavior, small-scale
productions, and alternative food networks (Galanakis, 2020).
The pandemic and the related lockdown measures favored
more formal and consolidated national and global supply
chains, particularly in urban contexts. In fact, localized and
sustainable food production and distribution experiences had to
face additional challenges, such as interruptions in the supply
or demand chains due to the lockdown and the need to
identify new distributions channels (FAO, 2020a,b). Under these
circumstances, a policy framework that takes into consideration
local needs and conditions and recognizes the multiple benefits
associated with localized and sustainable food production and
distribution experiences (Nicholls et al., 2020) becomes more
urgent than ever.
The international sustainability agenda has started to
acknowledge the urgency of this shift, recommending increased
diversity of plant-based foods, reduced consumption of meat,
substantial cuts in food waste, and re-localization of supply
chains (SCBD, 2020). Similarly, the Sustainable Development
Goals Target 2 has mandated countries to ensure sustainable
food production systems and double productivity and incomes
of small-scale food producers (United Nations, 2015).
With reference to urban food systems, after the Global call
for action conference of the World Urban Forum (2014), the
City/Region Food System (CRFS) approach started to gain
increasing attention within the international debate. At that time,
stakeholders were already aware that a territorial and holistic
food system approach was the most suitable way to tackle the
upcoming global challenges.
Afterwards, the CRFS framework was introduced by Jennings
et al. (2015) and defined as: “the complex network of actors,
processes, relationships that has to do with food production,
processing marketing, and consumption in a given geographical
region which includes a more or less concentrated urban center
and its surrounding peri-urban and rural hinterland.”
Other than representing a multidimensional way of action,
the CRFS approach entails two significant innovations. First,
it aims at creating a food governance structure that considers
local circumstances, understanding that cities exist within a
geography and that decisions about food should operate across
the urban-rural continuum. Second, such an outlook recognizes
the ecological, socio-economic, and governance linkages that
characterize food systems. These different dimensions not only
deserve equal attention but are also recognized as mutually
reinforcing (Jennings et al., 2015).
The CRFS has then become a new lens of analysis, paving
the way for a more sustainable, resilient, fair, and healthy food
system worldwide (World Urban Forum, 2014), and can help
today in the identification of innovative solutions to cope with
the aftermaths of the COVID-19 crisis.
This paper builds on the FoodE H2020 project, which sees the
collaboration of 24 partners from eight European countries and
aims to engage local organizations in the design, implementation,
and monitoring of environmentally, economically, and
socially sustainable CRFS. The goal of this paper is to offer
a systematic view of European food systems response to
COVID-19, highlighting the major trends and impacts and
discussing the potential policy implications related to the future
of CRFS.
METHODOLOGY
The work adopted a mixed-method approach integrating a
literature review with the opinion of experts and stakeholders
from a wide range of organizations and European countries.
Starting from the CRFS definition, a literature review was
carried out to identify the most critical food system areas affected
by the COVID-19 pandemic. The literature was systematized
by a mixed method of research based on scientific papers and
materials coming from gray literature. Concerning the peer
review literature, the high number of documents acquired and
revised have been collected through SCOPUS and Web Of
Science. The gray literature review was carried out through
Google Scholar, expert opinions, direct interviews, as well
as daily press in various languages, and blogs. Collected
information was clustered into five food system areas: (1)
agriculture, fisheries, and production systems; (2) innovative
business models for increased resilience and sustainability; and
(3) evolving technologies; (4) consumers behavior changes and
adaptations; and (5) schools and education. For each area a
dedicated working group was created. Working groups were
composed of 4–5 experts belonging to a wide range of food
stakeholders types including universities and research institutes,
small and medium enterprises, non-governmental organizations,
and municipalities.
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Vittuari et al. Envisioning Future European Food Systems
TABLE 1 | Involved participants in the stakeholder’s workshop, per country, and
organization.
Country Organization Number of
participants
Italy Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di
Bologna
15
Comune di Bologna 3
Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II 3
Flytech 3
France Institut des Sciences et Industries du
Vivant et de l’Environnement
1
Institut National de Recherche pour
l’Agriculture, l’alimentation et
l’environnement
1
Commune de Romainville 2
Germany Fachhochschule Südwestfalen 2
Institut für Landes- und
Stadtentwicklungsforschung gGmbH
2
Nolde Erwin and Partner 1
Netherlands Hague Corporate Affairs BV 3
Stichting Wageningen Research 2
Norway Gallis Miljø Og Kommunikasjon -
Nabolagshager
1
Polar Permaculture Solutions 1
Romania Asocia¸tia Mai Bine 1
Slovenia Arctur Ra ˇ
cunalniški Inženiring 3
Društvo Urbani Cebelar 1
Spain Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona 5
Universidad de La Laguna 1
Total participants 52
The work was organized in three rounds. In the first round
each working group collaborated independently to gather data,
summarize relevant information, and discuss ongoing trends.
The second round was represented by a large workshop engaging
a wider number of stakeholders (Table 1) providing feedbacks
and opinions on each of the five areas. The third round consisted
in an iterative consultation process within the five working
groups with the aim to integrate and review expert inputs.
The joint revision enabled the systematization of the process
and the harmonization of all provided contents. To follow a
food supply chain logic the five groups were then reduced to
three: (1) food production, covering agriculture, fisheries, and
production systems, (2) food distribution, covering innovative
business models for increased resilience and sustainability
and evolving technologies, (3) food consumption, covering
consumers behavior changes and adaptations and schools and
education (EP, 2020) (Figure 1).
FOOD TRENDS RELATED TO THE
COVID-19 CRISIS
The first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak did not lead to a major
disruption of the European food systems, but it shed light on
some specific challenges for each segment of the food chain,
revealing footprints of a shift citizens might wish to embrace. The
subsequent sections outline and discuss the main observed effects
in food production, distribution, and consumption stages.
Food Production
Production suffered from a consistent limitation of transport
lines and a generalized closing of borders. Suddenly, during
the spring season, workers were unable to reach their farms,
making it harder to carry out the harvest, catch and management
of seasonal products. Simultaneously, the compulsory social
distancing and personal protective equipment hampered the
daily work in the fields. Safety measures created difficulties
in production at all stages, especially for those informal
chains where health and safety conditions were already
limited. In these cases, implementing such measures proved
challenging and led to either increased likelihood of infection or
reduced production.
To buffer the labor shortage burdens, a variety of public
and private actors developed apps and online platforms to
match farmers’ demands of seasonal staff and support mitigating
production activities logistical disruptions (Laborde et al., 2020;
Mitaritonna and Ragot, 2020). Despite having a consistent
success, these services could not fully offset the problem, and food
losses remained a major tangible concern (IOM., 2020). Other
than the challenges in the fields, the stocking of products which
could not reach the market at the pre-COVID19 rate, became a
central issue. Only those commercial facilities having extensive
capacity and enough flexibility, were able to transform products
through canning or freezing techniques, while many others were
left with unsold fresh products in the warehouses.
Finally, the shutdown of the Hotellerie-Restaurant-Café
services, which represent a crucial market for many farmers and
small producers, worsened the difficulties, reducing the sales
volumes of many.
Food Distribution
The shift toward online shopping and takeaway consumption,
both for fresh ingredients and ready to eat meals, led to a
structural transformation of small and medium food initiatives,
deeply modifying the customer relationship and sales channels.
For many CRFS, whose major value proposition consists of
the relational connections delivered inside and outside their
organizations, the effects of social distancing measures were
perceived as more severe than those experienced among more
traditional food suppliers (Pulighe and Lupia, 2020). Only, in
some cases, both newcomers and experienced online platforms
developed communication tools that allowed maintaining such
relational dimension.
Workers, but also volunteers, struggled to reach their food
initiatives, creating also in this case a labor shortage (especially
for food delivery) that ultimately resulted in a consistent gap
within the food chain operational structure. Similarly, the logistic
disruption led to inputs shortages (OECD, 2020), which made it
harder to proceed with the business as usual especially for the
initiatives with lower bargaining power (FAO, 2020a).
The shutdown of food and farmers’ markets, together with
restaurants and school canteens, contributed to the failure of
Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems | www.frontiersin.org 3March 2021 | Volume 5 | Article 642787
Vittuari et al. Envisioning Future European Food Systems
FIGURE 1 | Perspective paper methodological development.
local offer and alternative food networks. Only consolidated
distribution hubs, such as supermarkets and conveniences stores,
remained open at an early stage, reducing the range of choices for
food actors. In some countries, as in the case of Italy, consumers
were encouraged to shop in the nearest store (Gazzetta Ufficiale
della Repubblica Italiana., 2020).
Large retailers were less endangered than specialist and niche
shops, which were often obliged to rely on local governmental
support to overcome structural and technological barriers (FAO,
2020c).
The closure of the Hotellerie-Restaurant-Café sector also had
additional implications. The sector usually purchases products
with different packaging as compared with home consumers.
Thus, part of the packaged products was no longer marketable,
leading to increased food waste (Petetin, 2020).
Food Consumption
The consumer trends that have emerged during the COVID-19
pandemic represent a major signal of change. From a household
perspective, a typical consumer was motivated to maintain his
or her physical and mental health and had more time available,
while being more cost-conscious due to the uncertain economic
situation (Accenture, 2020). As a result, consumers often adopted
a back-to-basics approach to nutrition, with more home cooking
and baking (Bernstein, 2020; Nielsen, 2020; OCU, 2020). Notably,
citizens also stockpiled non-perishable goods, such as canned
food, tomato sauce, pasta, flour, and yeast (OCU, 2020; Rogers,
2020).
Meanwhile, an increased sensitivity toward food
sustainability, healthier diets, and an effort to establish
stronger bonds with the origin of food emerged (Cohen,
2020; Rodríguez-Pérez et al., 2020). As an example, higher
attention was given to ingredients selection, recipes scouting,
and online cooking classes.
A surge in demand for short-supply chains and home delivery
options, often supported by digital solutions, was observed
in many countries (Hobbs, 2020). Local small-scale suppliers
received larger attention by consumers since they were associated
with higher safety standards and better food quality (Rizou et al.,
2020). In some cases, the consumers’ demand on online delivery
channels consistently far exceeded the available distribution
capacities (Hobbs, 2020; Nielsen, 2020).
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Vittuari et al. Envisioning Future European Food Systems
With regards to food waste, the preliminary evidence provided
by large national surveys (Roberts and Downing, 2020; Waste
Watcher, 2020) confirmed a reduction of household food waste
thanks to more time for in-home food management and cooking
and a better planning for grocery shopping.
Despite observing several positive trends, vulnerable groups
faced severe barriers in food consumption during the lockdown.
Primarily, the shutdown of school canteens affected food security
and habits for entire families. According to the United Nations,
World Food Programme (2020), about 320 million children saw
their schools temporarily closing due to COVID-19.
Pre-COVID-19 policies in European school canteens enabled
to offer high-quality food, with relevant positive effects on pupils’
dietary intake (Clinton-McHarg et al., 2018; Micha et al., 2018).
Consequently, the lockdown measures likely put poorer children
under nutritional stress, since the school meal might represent
their only adequate food intake (Dunn et al., 2020). This effect
was further aggravated by the difficulties of food banks, which
experienced a drop in financial resources and a shortage of
volunteers (FEBA, 2020).
Impacts on Food System
Due to the exogenous nature of this shock, the COVID-
19 provoked a series of new behavioral shifts. Changes were
quite unpredictable, leading to layered environmental, economic,
governmental, and social impacts. As analyzed, observed
adjustments immediately shaped consumption and production
habits leading to new supply chain patterns. Depending on the
governmental attitudes and capabilities, some of the rapidly
emerging trends along the entire supply chain are probably
destined to have a temporary nature. Others are likely to have
longer-term implications.
Thanks to specific policy interventions detrimental reactions
that have not shown to improve European food systems,
should succeed in remaining short-term and limited to the
emergency period, while beneficial shifts should be framed to
guarantee their long-term viability. The results from such an
uncertain and challenging period will depend on the diffused
ability to correctly manage these positive and negative impacts
cycles as described in Figure 2. The extent to which these
mutual cycles will be reiterated will determine whether more
resilient and sustainable food systems will emerge from the
COVID-19 crisis.
Short-Term Impacts
Short-term impacts emerged clearly. For instance, the negative
impact of social distancing measures that prevented the
Hotellerie-Restaurant-Café service from using table service for
their customers, has led the increasing home delivery options as
a possible solution for restaurants (Laguna et al., 2020). However,
this trend is likely to disappear once the emergency period will
end. However, the effect might depend on the time extension of
these measures, as reduced capacity would not be economically
viable for an extended period (Dube et al., 2020).
In general, the relational dimension of CRFS limited by the
crisis will likely be re-established or re-designed over time,
creating new interactive formats, and making it easier for all
actors to start working back on what CRFS initiatives consider
as their core value proposition.
Similarly, the home cooking trends, connecting more deeply
consumers and producers, will probably change once workers
will start getting back to their regular work shifts and workplaces
(Fernández-Aranda et al., 2020). Despite not leading to a long-
lasting positive modification of consumers eating habits, the
pandemic cooking pattern might influence the food consumption
vision for quite some time. Time availability and more simple
food planning and management (e.g., in most of the cases
all the meals were consumed at home by all the members of
the family) represented key drivers in reducing food waste.
However, although some of the new skills and habits might
remain, the return to the pre-COVID-19 working schedule
and lifestyle will probably limit the progresses obtained during
the lockdown.
In certain countries, the effects of COVID-19 on household
income and food security have been dramatic and were extended
to a rather large share of families (Power et al., 2020; The
Food Foundation, 2020). This was worsened by the changes
in children’s consumption patterns whose social programs and
school canteens were suspended. Parents with lower awareness
of healthy diets and less disposable time for cooking might
have offered a less virtuous alternative to school canteens, both
by reducing the attention to their children’s food care and by
offering them more packaged and ready-to-eat products. This
phenomenon did not only affect children’s diets but might have
contributed to higher consumption of foods featuring larger
environmental impacts and lower nutritional values.
Similarly, in some cases, new consumption behaviors also
produced further unintended environmental consequences,
depending on the type and amount of food purchased, as well as
the related packaging. The diffusion of food delivery and last-mile
emergency logistics might have resulted in increased pollution,
even though partially outpaced by lockdown traffic reduction.
Additionally all delivered food, required great amounts of
packaging materials, whose sustainable alternatives were often
too expensive to be adopted by small-scale activities.
As anticipated, according to individual priorities, these
immediate changes might be converted into long-term behavioral
trends, positively affecting people’s daily lives. Somewhat
consciously, people changed the perception of the food
systems, possibly giving higher importance to local networks
and adapting their shopping preferences to a new level of
awareness (Béné, 2020). Growing demand for environmentally
and socially ethical products has gone hand in hand with
higher awareness, and these jointly will boost local food
production and consumption (Hobbs, 2020). If such an intention
were properly sustained, the diffusion of proximity production
and distribution systems such as urban gardening and local
scale farming may encourage the implementation of shorter
food chains.
Long-Term Impacts
Considering long-term implications, lockdown trends also
showed an increase in the online demand for foods and
beverages. Once consumers have sunk the learning costs required
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Vittuari et al. Envisioning Future European Food Systems
FIGURE 2 | Impacts on the European CRFS—Envisaged negative and positive outcomes cycles.
to adopt these types of food delivery and firms have adapted their
spaces and operations to these shifts, changes are likely to persist
well beyond the COVID-19, even though to a reduced extent.
If these digital accelerations can be seen as a virtuous
innovation phenomenon for the whole sector, such a rapid
transition may risk excluding smaller CRFS, ensuring major
benefits only for more consolidated structures (Belavina et al.,
2017; Arnalte-Mur et al., 2020). Moreover, smallholders may
already face larger difficulties in recovering from the economic
effects of the crisis, due to their lower business capacity.
The pandemic helped food stakeholders understanding the
importance of strategic and local partnerships, both to increase
their value and improve their ability to cope with possible
future crises. If correctly handled, this might entail a higher
number of cooperative initiatives, open innovation ecosystems,
and shared networks.
Given the increased time children spent at home and the
largest number of meals shared with the family, the lockdown
period could have raised parent’s awareness on the importance
of the daily meal, giving them more time to understand children
food habits, preferences, and food attitudes. Once school catering
started to re-open, such dedication might end up in an increased
parents’ involvement in food education activities and in the
design of school food quality, in terms of both food types
and producers’ selections. Food supply might be rethought,
taking advice on the economic impact its management has on
local farmers.
POLICY-IMPLICATIONS: TOWARD THE
FOOD SYSTEM WE WANT AND NEED
The COVID-19 outbreak and the related responses allow to
understand and evaluate the kind of possible and, indeed,
desirable reforms, from a systemic point of view. In many aspects,
bottom-up actions by producers and participatory consumer
proposals prove to be in line with the emerging European policy
agenda (EC, 2020), which indicates the commitment to address
food systems imbalances.
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Vittuari et al. Envisioning Future European Food Systems
To reinforce this perspective and improve resilience in food
supply chains local, national, and European governments should
consider to:
Encourage a diversification in food provision, including local
food production, as a mean for a more resilient supply
chain, promoting more substantial and innovative small-
scale production systems, whose social contribution has been
highlighted by the pandemic. The strategy might include
actions aimed at promoting the existence of local CRFS,
favoring investments into marketing and information and
communication technology use for those activities that are
lagging through. Examples include ad-hoc training, call for
actions, and public competition opportunities. In the long run,
this could help accelerate CRFS and improve competitiveness
with respect to more consolidated channels.
Promote open discussion tables and forums,
partnerships, and reciprocal learning to ensure cross-
pollination and best practices exchange among CRFS.
Besides facilitating reciprocal supports, this will help
increasing the bargaining power of CRFS initiatives,
making them more equipped against future time
of crisis.
Address schools as a central re-starting point. Involving
teachers, families, and students in the definition of sustainable
diet patterns, promoting food educational campaigns, and
responsible shopping choices can help to transform cheerful
consumer’s behavioral change into systemic and long-lasting
habits. To this scope, the provision of food in schools should
put those principles in effect and should be combined with
educational approaches on the community and territorial
services. Similarly, open-air educational projects as urban or
school vegetable gardens (Pennisi et al., 2020) can represent
promising alternatives.
Ensure that the development of policy tools include
evaluations on different sustainability dimensions of
the food chain. Given the evidence of the multifaceted
benefits delivered by food initiatives, it is crucial to make
sure all food values and attributes are considered when
making decisions.
CONCLUSIONS
The first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak emphasized the
need to establish new governance mechanisms engaging public
authorities, citizens, small and medium enterprises, and non-
profit organizations in the conceptualization and design of
new models for sustainable CRFS that deliver environmental,
societal, and economic benefits. The second wave of the
outbreak and the related lockdown measures will offer the
chance to assess whether previous adaptations resurfaced (in
case of short-term) or continued (in case of long-term) and
whether policies put in place to scale up beneficial transitions
were successful.
Further research commitment and stakeholders’
involvement should aim at unveiling the most urgent
questions, offering reasonable ground to drive the envisaged
food planning.
How new systemic organizational structure and policy
frameworks transforming the positive shifts into more
permanent and sustainable behaviors can be created? Which
type of measurements are needed to support a more holistic
and integrated view on food production, distribution, and
consumption to ensure equal importance at economic,
societal, and environmental needs? What should be the role of
government in this transition? The ability to make city/regions
more resilient will crucially depend on policy stakeholders’
commitment to prioritize these challenges in the local and global
sustainability agenda.
DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
The original contributions generated for the study are included
in the article/supplementary material, further inquiries can be
directed to the corresponding author/s.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
MV, GB, SB, FC, AM, FO, JP, MP, KS, and FD equally contributed
to the concept of the study, its framework, the coordination and
activities of subgroups, and writing of the manuscript. SA, A-MA,
TB, IB, ACo, ACr, ACu, RF-K, AG, AL, PM, EN, JP-F, GP, BP,
LR-D, IR, YR, VS-G, AS, SS, MdS, ST, PT, GT, BV, and GV equally
contributed to the activities of subgroups and the review of the
manuscript. All authors contributed to the article and approved
the submitted version.
FUNDING
The research leading to this publication has received funding
from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and
innovation programme under grant agreement no. 862663. The
publication reflects the author’s views. The Research Executive
Agency (REA) is not liable for any use that may be made
of the information contained therein. This work was also
supported by and ERC Consolidator grant awarded to Gara
Villalba (818002-URBAG).
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors would like to thank the following contributors for
their valuable inputs and feedbacks: Ilaria Braschi, Margherita
Del Prete, and Francesca Monticone from the University of
Bologna; Chiara Cirillo from the University of Naples Federico
II; Luuk Graamans from Wageningen University and Research.
The authors thank all partners in the FoodE consortium for
their collaboration.
Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems | www.frontiersin.org 7March 2021 | Volume 5 | Article 642787
Vittuari et al. Envisioning Future European Food Systems
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Conflict of Interest: A-MA was employed by company Hague Corporate Affairs.
ACo was employed by company Metabolic Institute. ACu was employed by
company Nabolagshager AS. ACr was employed by the company Flytech S.r.l. AG
was employed by company Asociatia Mai Bine. EN was employed by company
Nolde and Partner. SS was employed by company Tåsen Microgreens AS. MdS
was employed by company Organización de Productores de Túnidos y Pesca
Fresca de la Isla de Tenerife-ISLATUNA. GT was employed by company Urban
Beekeeping Society. BV was employed by company Polar Permaculture Solutions
AS.
The remaining authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of
any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential
conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2021 Vittuari, Bazzocchi, Blasioli, Cirone, Maggio, Orsini, Penca,
Petruzzelli, Specht, Amghar, Atanasov, Bastia, Bertocchi, Coudard, Crepaldi,
Curtis, Fox-Kämper, Gheorghica, Lelièvre, Muñoz, Nolde, Pascual-Fernández,
Pennisi, Pölling, Reynaud-Desmet, Righini, Rouphael, Saint-Ges, Samoggia,
Shaystej, da Silva, Toboso Chavero, Tonini, Trušnovec, Vidmar, Villalba and
De Menna. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution
or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s)
and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in
this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use,
distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these
terms.
Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems | www.frontiersin.org 9March 2021 | Volume 5 | Article 642787
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The COVID-19 emergency has revealed the extreme fragility of large cities to unexpected complex global risks and crises. City lockdown has led to increasing awareness of the vital importance of food availability for citizens. The combined effect of border closure and movement restrictions increased food losses and export costs, especially for vegetables and perishable goods exposing non-self-sufficient countries. We claim the idea that urban agriculture in developed countries should be fostered with emerging growing practices and edible green infrastructures, such as vertical farming, hydroponics, aeroponic, aquaponic, and rooftop greenhouses. Notwithstanding the limitations of traditional urban farming activities, innovative and disruptive solutions and short food supply chains of fresh agricultural products might play a positive role in lessening uncertainties from global systemic risks.
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